The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risks of serious injury or death from thousands of types of consumer products under the agency’s jurisdiction. The CPSC is committed to protecting consumers and families from products that pose a fire, electrical, chemical, or mechanical hazard. The CPSC’s work to ensure the safety of consumer products – such as toys, cribs, power tools, cigarette lighters, and household chemicals – contributed significantly to the decline in the rate of deaths and injuries associated with consumer products over the past 30 years.
The emphasis was added by me. I’m sitting here at my computer trying to think of something thoughtful and coherent to write about this new law known as the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) which goes into effect on February 10, 2009. I’m at a loss. No, wait. Losing is what is about to happen to me. Julie from Mother Goose Mouse tagged me on this and when Julie asks you to do anything, you just do it.
Maybe you have heard about it, maybe you haven’t. A result of that horrible fiasco with Mattel a year ago when they provided China with the lead-free paint and the manufacturers sold the lead-free paint and slapped on lead-FILLED paint on toys, Congress rushed this lead testing legislation right on through. In fact, it received one”nay” in the House on the first pass (Thank you very much, Ron Paul). The Senate? Nearly as pathetic.
“We must protect the children.” I find it fascinating after having read the legislation that those who passed it may not have even given it a glance. Rather than target items that have in the past been found harmful for children (such as toys), the legislation takes a fabulously broad CYA approach. If we require everyone to repeatedly test everything for lead, we will ensure that children will not be exposed to it. Sounds great in theory, right? Except now everything that could go in the mouth of a child 12 and under has to be tested for lead. Even things that have never harmed children before. Even things that have never had lead in them. We are required to repeatedly test these lead-free items: first the manufacturer and then anyone else down the line who alters the item in any way. My shirts that are made by American Apparel? Even though American Apparel has tested them and found no lead, I have to test them again because I alter them by screen printing. My ink that I use? Lead-free. Already tested. I still have to test the finished product. I find this overwhelming since I’m not exactly sure how I would get lead into these lead-free tees with lead-free ink. I guess it’s time to take the tin foil hat off my head.
I cannot find one case of lead poisoning as a result of lead in 100% cotton tees. If you know of one, let me know. How exactly is this law making kids safer if in some cases they were already safe? The legislation is filled, however, with promises of millions of dollars to do research to determine the effects of lead on all of these things if they were to ever have lead in them. Um, okay? Do I think toys should be tested? Of course. My kids put everything in their mouth when they were little. That seems logical to me. Raise the fines and consequences for people who break the law and expose kids to unsafe conditions? Absolutely. Throw out this tremendous net thinking it will keep those who need to be watched on track? Insanity.
The trouble is, children’s apparel is included in this lead testing legislation. No one trusts China anymore but because of our trade agreements, our rules have to be the same. I have to have all of my kids clothing tested for lead which has never been in the dye in my clothing and isn’t now. This law doesn’t make children any safer because they were never at risk from my clothing.
And wait ’til you hear about the testing. I have to send completed items to be tested. So if my “I’m better than a puppy” comes in pink, blue, organic cotton and white with brown ink, I have to send in four completed tees in each size. They will charge me for each component (tee and ink) for all four. They are going to charge me $75 four times to test the same ink on four different shirts. Did I mention that my ink company has already tested the ink and that the lead contained it in was so incredibly small that it didn’t even register? That American Apparel has to do these same tests before they send their cotton tees to me? They will send me certifications that the shirts comply but the law says I have to retest. So now I have to send full shirts out that will or will not be destroyed as a result of testing, at a cost of $150 per shirt. To put it in perspective, I will have to pay $1,800 just to test the “I’m better than a puppy” tee (that doesn’t include the onesies and the long sleeve tees). Maybe I shouldn’t have offered all those colors in all those different styles. Maybe I shouldn’t have given my customers so many options. The law is retroactive so everything I have sitting around has to be tested. I find myself with a couple of this color in this size and a couple of this color in this size. When I say a couple, I mean that over six sizes, 16 styles and different colors, I am sitting on around 500 tees. Let’s not get into the fact that $900 of that testing on those four shirts for just ONE STYLE of the “I’m better than a puppy” is for ink that has already been fully tested once and DOESN’T EVEN REGISTER THE LEAD, LET ALONE GET ANYWHERE NEAR THE LEAD LIMIT.
As a student of the law, I can tell you that there is no shortage of legislation regarding consumer protection. I’m a firm believer that toys and other items that are or could be harmful to children should be banned. Rails of cribs that kids can chew on? Shouldn’t have lead. But passing legislation that basically says anything that can ever go in the mouth of a child 12 and under must be tested for lead is ridiculous. Requiring people to re-test after a manufacturer has already tested is ridiculous and a waste of money. Requiring people to be tested by a previously approved testing facility mandated by the government makes you wonder if you are in the wrong business.
In this economy, Congress has successfully pissed off a wide range of people. Wait until all the Green people realize that old toys will have to be thrown into a landfill rather than be recycled because any sale of them will violate this law. How about those of us who loved to scour consignment stores because it is better suited for our budget and we don’t NEED new every single time? Love yourself some Etsy? Every single one of those people making stuff for kids will most likely be shut down by the cost prohibitive testing (which most likely will already have been done by manufacturers anyway).
But, Internet, while excessive and unnecessary government intervention is screwing me, there is a rainbow for you. That rainbow is the HUGE sale at Baby Brewing. All of the kid and baby tees, regularly $16, are now $6. I figure it is better to cut my losses now rather than either wait for Congress to have their heads removed from their, well, okay, who are we kidding? If you could hook a sister up and pass the word along to your friends, I would really appreciate it. Come on. Everyone you know is having a baby. It can’t hurt to stick a tee in a closet for a baby shower or a preschooler party you forgot you were getting stuck attending.
If you want to read more about this travesty with the CPSIA (and all of the industries that will effectively be shut down), others have done a much better job of explaining it in a way that does not ramble or seem like a rant. I’m off to cry myself to sleep.